New research finds that spending time playing video games may not impact wellbeing. 

A University of Oxford study of 39,000 gamers has found “little to no evidence for a causal connection between gameplay and well-being” but that “motivations play a role in players’ well-being”. 

The data came from players of seven well-known games which included Animal Crossing: New Horizons, Apex Legends, Eve Online, Forza Horizon 4, Gran Turismo Sport, and The Crew 2, and covered a six-week period of play. 

It is the largest study of this kind so far to use real data on player behaviour rather than self-reported play. It also builds on research undertaken previously by the research group which found that players who play more also report slightly greater levels of well-being.

“This exciting study brings together significant amounts of real playing data collected by games companies and donated by players,” says researcher Professor Andrew K Przybylski.

“Our work reliably measures how long people are playing these games across time, data which simply wasn’t accessible in the past.”

However, the findings suggest further industry data is required across a greater range of games and players to develop a deeper understanding of the roles of video games in players’ well-being.

Dr. Matti Vuorre, a researcher at the Oxford Internet Institute and co-author, observes: “One thing is certain – right now there is not enough data and evidence for policymakers and regulators to be developing laws and rules to restrict gameplay among certain groups in a population. I would urge all online platforms, not just games companies, to make it easy for users to donate their data to independent scholars.”

“This work represents substantial progress for the field but we need to cast a much wider net,” Professor Przybylski concludes. 

“If we want to truly understand how games influence human health we have to collect data from the thousands of games played every day. Conclusive answers to the questions of how games influence our society will require all of the major console, computer, and mobile platforms to empower their users to effortlessly and ethically donate their play data for independent analysis.”